Carl Hite has fought a few battles in the higher education arena in almost three decades of working for colleges.
The 58-year-old candidate for Pasco-Hernando Community College president scratched the surface of a few of them as he took questions from faculty and staff in a meeting Monday that lasted a little more than 90 minutes.
"We're trying to make this the best institution it can possibly be," said Hite, president of Cleveland State Community College in Tennessee, talking about his relations with faculty. "And you know this and I know this, we all don't see things the same way."
Hite said he found himself in the midst of a "very contentious" year as his college grappled with budget constraints and a vice president of academic affairs displeased faculty last year.
He described a situation in which he tried unsuccessfully to get faculty to buy into an educational model espoused by Terry O'Banion in a 1997 book, A Learning College for the 21st Century.
"The faculty totally turned me down flat on it. It took me a while to recover from that," he said.
Hite was the last of three interviewees in the hunt to replace retiring president Robert Judson, who leaves in January.
Also being considered are Katherine Johnson, 53, president of Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, N.C., and PHCC vice president Paul Szuch, 58.
A former provost at Hillsborough Community College, Hite has spent the past eight years in Tennessee. He was a history major at Florida State University and holds a master's degree in American history and a doctorate in higher education administration, both from the University of Florida.
Hite described his leadership style as "enthusiastic" _ a trait he also said was most important to effective leading. He said he would spend his first 90 days in the presidency traveling to each of PHCC's five locations to get to know the people and issues that make the school tick.
Hite stood before 40 to 50 people and spoke for about five minutes for each of the 20 questions posed to him. A former high school track and football coach who went on to spend five years as Hillsborough Community College's athletic director, Hite said he holds student activities and sports as vital to college life.
He lamented state funding constraints and touted efforts to get K-12 students thinking about community college early in life through college partnerships with local schools and community groups.
Hite's wife, Clare Hite, is a full-time professor of education at the University South Florida. Hite said he's ready to bring an end to three to four years of commuting.
"I'm ready to come home," he said. "I need to be in Florida."
PHCC's board of trustees will interview Hite during its public meeting at 7 tonight on its west campus. Trustees expect to name the next president Oct. 26, after making campus visits to Tennessee and North Carolina.